Ales Bialiatski: “Back in June, Intigam Aliyev was wearing a T-shirt with my portrait, now it’s me who’s wearing a T-shirt with his portrait” (video)
A group of civil society representatives and lawyers in Azerbaijan have petitioned the country’s President Ilham Aliyev with a call to assist in the release of prominent human rights activist Intigam Aliyev, head of the Legal Education Society.
The petitioners ask the President to take into account the activist’s serious health condition and his achievements in training legal personnel in Azerbaijan, says the Caucasian Knot website. The online newspaper publication reminds that Intigam Aliyev was arrested on 8 August on charges of tax evasion, abuse of power and illegal business. The court ordered to arrest the human rights activist for three months, and on 24 October the arrest was extended until 8 February, 2015.
“Intigam Aliyev is one of the few persons in Azerbaijan who became the embodiment of the principles of justice, moral purity, education for people with different political views and from different segments of the population. Intigam Aliyev was the teacher of dozens of the existing lawyers. He continually and selflessly served the cause of educating the youth for its bright future,” says the petition to the head of Azerbaijan, which was signed by 70 activists and lawyers. The authors believe that that Intigam Aliyev is in urgent need of conditions for medical treatment. Otherwise, his life would be endangered.
The activists ask the head of state, taking into account Aliyev’s health, to assist in replacing the arrest with a different preventive measure that is not related to detention. “If necessary, we are willing to vouch for Intigama Aliyev,” says the petition.
Previously, due to a sharp deterioration in the health, Aliyev’s defense sent an appeal to the ECHR with a request to take the case for urgent consideration, and on 10 November the court said the case had been admitted the government of Azerbaijan would have to address issues associated with Aliyev’s and his state of health, which must be answered by 17 November. As yet, mass media have been unable to receive any comments in the state bodies of Azerbaijan on whether the ECHR’s requests have been replied, after the period provided by the Strasbourg court had expired.
Intigam Aliyev is one of the 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, who were awarded the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Prize, the presentation of which took place in Oslo last week. This award was established by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in 1980 with Sakharov’s consent to support the people who face persecution for their views, beliefs and attitudes. As noted in the NHC’s statement, Azerbaijani human rights activists have identified the names of the 98 political prisoners, based on the criteria of the Council of Europe.
Ales Bialiatski, Viasna leader and FIDH Vice-President, was invited to the ceremony as the winner of the award in 2006 and a former political prisoner in Belarus, whose release was persistently sought by Norwegian human rights defenders. He spoke in support of the Azerbaijani colleagues. During his speech, Ales Bialiatski was wearing a T-shirt with a portrait of Intigama Aliyev and called for his release.
“In my speech I said that when I speak about Azerbaijan I think about Belarus. And vice versa. Because our authoritarian regimes are very similar. They learn from each other how to control society, how to fight civil society and human rights activists. Over the past two years, Azerbaijani authorities have imprisoned several dozen people: at different times, for different reasons. Among them there are human rights defenders, activists, journalists and bloggers. This year, as you know, an especially heavy blow was suffered by human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. When arresting them, they faced the charges of tax evasion, for which I was convicted in Belarus. Here you can see an obvious parallel: the authorities are trying to discredit them in the eyes of the public in Azerbaijan,” says Ales Bialiatski.
Viasna leader regards the awarding of the Andrei Sakharov Prize to the Azerbaijani political prisoners as a definite message from the civil society in Norway. A message to the Azerbaijani government – so that the authorities did not violate human rights and persecuted civil society representatives. Message to the Azerbaijani people – with an expression of support in its aspiration for a democratic civilized society where human rights were respected.